Spring Election 2017: Twin Lakes School District No. 4 (Lakewood School) candidate questionnaire answers

Voters in Twin Lakes School District No. 4 (Lakewood School)  will have the opportunity to vote in a contested school board election on Tuesday, April 4.

There are three candidates for two seats. Voters will be able to vote for two individuals. The candidates with the two highest vote totals will win the seats.

Each candidate was sent the same request for biographical information and a set of questions. Following are their answers:

Rhett Suhre — Age: 50. Education: University of Illinois, Bachelors Degree in Bioengineering. Occupation: Director of Healthcare Credentialing, Abbott Laboratories. Previous elected/appointed public office: Vice President Board of Education, Twin Lakes District #4; Chair of the Board of Directors, Consortium for Universal Healthcare Credentialing; Board of Directors, Wisconsin Judo Inc.; Committee Chair, Boy Scout Troop 380, Twin Lakes.

Steve Turner — Age: 48. Education: Three degrees: Bachelors of Arts in: Psychology, Human Resource Management and Business Administration. Minor in Biblical Literature. Occupation: Executive in a large Data Solutions Organization. Previous elected/appointed public office: Currently a member of the board of education at Wilmot Union High School. Member Finance Committee.

Scott Whipple — Age: 36. Education: BA from St. Cloud State University in Biology Teaching and Health Education. MA from Concordia University in Educational Leadership. Occupation: Principal. Previous elected/appointed public office: None.

1.) What will be your top priorities if elected to the Twin Lakes No. 4 School District board?

Suhre — Ongoing communication and engagement with the community is key. You cannot have a strong community without strong schools and vice versa. We have come a long way in this area but there are many more ideas that we have yet to implement. We also have to work more collaboratively among the feeder schools and Wilmot. I understand friendly competition and loyalty but if we truly want our youth to succeed, we need to figure out how we can work together rather than be in competition with other schools/students. We need to remember that they will be peers together at the High School and most likely in life.

Turner — I have one priority; improve the education our children receive while attending Lakewood. This priority can and should be accomplished through multiple strategic levers that involve getting our young children a better start, then building on that start as they move into the more senior grades. Consider that Lakewood’s school ranking has declined consistently, dropping from a 306 ranking in 2004 to 836 of 1070 schools in 2016 (SchoolDigger). This points to a clear need for both strategic and executional improvement. Our elementary is in the 22nd percentile within the state and our middle school is in the 30th percentile. Both have declined by ~50% since 2004. Additionally; across all measured grades (3rd-8th); we do not have an exam score that exceeds a 55% competency rate. The majority of scores are lower than 50%. We simply must do better. As a parent of Lakewood students and attendee of school board meetings, we hear of many initiatives and programs being launched with sound rationale, but are they effective? Are they being executed well? Are they designed in a way that can be measured and tied back to our kid’s educational improvement? The scores certainly provide insight into these questions. My focus will be to translate effort into educational improvement for our kids. Secondarily, and likely linked to the above, is the administration’s collective ability to effectively leverage the talents that exist in the teaching staff. Having had 4 kids either move through or currently involved in the school I’ve interacted with some deeply passionate and skilled teachers. I believe there is an opportunity to better connect with teaching talent that we have at Lakewood today.

Whipple — Supporting the efforts made to increase student learning and achievement. Help support teaching effectiveness through professional development for our teachers.

2.) Why are you the best choice for Twin Lakes No. 4 School District board?

Suhre — Christine and I have always felt that it was important to be involved in the community and especially with youth. I grew up in a phenomenal community with good sports, healthy activities/clubs, and a great school system. I have benefitted from that and feel that it is my responsibility to give back. We have been involved in many activities but two stand out. I have been a lifelong member of the Boy Scouts of America and currently serve as the Chair of the Troop Committee. I have also been the owner/operator (with a lot of support) of the Westosha Judo club for the last 10 years. Both organizations seek to provide youth with a solid foundation in physical, mental, and life skills. More importantly, we hope to help them to develop character. Serving on the Board of Education also fits this model. We provide the support for the Administration and Staff to instill these skills and character in our youth who in turn will build our community. I appreciate your support toward continuing these efforts.

Turner —  I feel I am in a very unique situation that is exceptionally suited for a role on the Lakewood board. I’m certainly vested, as I’ve had multiple children at Lakewood since 2008 and continuing on through 2020. This vesting coupled with my passion for our kids development is a powerful motivator to create meaningful change. Additionally, being a member of the Wilmot High School board provides me with a unique view of the preparedness of the incoming students from the surrounding feeder schools, including Lakewood. The insights I have as a result of serving on the Wilmot board will most certainly help contribute to the role I hope to play on the Lakewood board. Further, in the past two decades I have worked in learning and development roles with large, accomplished organizations. I have developed specific skills around assessing needs, creating a vision, and executing a plan to address those needs. In summary, I am vested and passionate about Lakewood’s performance, I have a unique line of sight into the school’s operations, and have strong background that will support its core needs.

Whipple — I have thirteen years in education, 11 of those years was in a low income district working on school transformation and change. I am currently a principal at a middle school that has grade 5 through 8. I believe my experience and knowledge of education will be an asset to the continued efforts made at Lakewood.


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